NEW DELHI: Regardless of the recent promise made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Durban about the early commissioning of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant (KKNPP), the government has instructed the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) that safety reviews of KKNPPshould be run with a “fine-toothed comb” without being pressured by commissioning deadline. In fact, the government had recently invited the Operational Safety Review Team of the IAEA to do an independent safety assessment of other Indian reactors, particularly RAPS (in Rajasthan).
Last week, the Supreme Court cleared the power plant, paving the way for early commissioning. Originally, the plant was scheduled to be commissioned in 2007.
A whole new set of safety checks were conducted by the AERB after four valves that came from a Russian supplier were found to be “deficient”.
Stung by a series of popular protests about safety issues in Kudankulam, which has inspired protests by a large number of NGOs, the government is keen that no stone is left unturned. If this means the Russians are less than pleased, sources said, so be it. They added that some of the supplies from Russian companies have been found to be below par.
NPCIL has that the commissioning of KKNPP would now happen only in June, after another set of checks are carried out. The company said the physical progress of the plant was 99.6% complete.
This week a group of 60 leading scientists wrote a letter to the PM, and chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala asking for more stringent safety checks of the KKNPP. They have sought “renewed study” of safety issues by an independent panel of experts. The scientists — most of them serving in state-run institutions — have expressed doubts, “particularly with reference to possible sub-standard components” used in the plant.
These are not scientists advocating against nuclear energy, but concerned about safety issues. “These safety concerns are compounded by the fact that Russian authorities arrested Sergei Shutov, procurement director of Zio-Podolsk, on corruption charges for having sourced cheaper sub-standard steel for manufacturing components that were used in Russian nuclear installations in Bulgaria, Iran, China and India,” they wrote in the letter, The arrest of Shutov, they cited, led to several complaints of sub-standard components and follow-up investigations in both Bulgaria and China.
While the AERB gave an in-principle clearance for fuel loading of the plant in April, hopes that it would be commissioned by May were dashed after faulty valves made news. In an effort to quell the protests and spiralling negative perception about the power plant, the government has been on an information overdrive to educate and be transparent. This week, minister of state V Narayanasamy said, “All nuclear power projects undergo an elaborate in-depth safety review during the consenting stages, like siting, construction, commissioning, etc. After satisfactory review during project stage, AERB issues operating licence to an NPP for a period of up to five years.”
Last week, responding to a question in Parliament, government assured that components supplied to KKNPP are “tested in an integrated manner during commissioning to verify their performance in accordance to design performance criteria. Any shortfall noticed in performance is addressed/corrected as a part of the commissioning programme”.
ACCORDING to the Department of Atomic Energy and the authorities of Nuclear Power Corporation of India, the loading of uranium fuel rods at the 1,000 MWe-capacity first unit of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project was completed on 2 October last year, but has not produced a single unit of electricity so far. Critical equipment supplied by Atomstroyexport of Russia, building nuclear reactors abroad, were found to be shoddy and have developed leaks even before commissioning of the plant. The financial statement released by Atomstroyexport shows its losses have doubled in the last year and it is on the brink of bankruptcy. Russian engineers at the Koodankulam plant site have not been able to plug the leaks. In a desperate attempt to commission the plant, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made it a prestige issue, NPCIL has flown in technicians from Croatia and Germany to carry out repairs in the Russian designed and erected plant. NPCIL claims to have spent an excess of Rs. 4,500 crore on the non-functioning power plant. The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy has threatened to lay siege on the Koodankulam nuclear complex in a non-violent manner if the Centre commissions the first unit in haste and secrecy without attending to its safety requirements, and sought a White Paper on the KKNPP and its reactors from the Centre. It was turned down.
An official statement issued by NPCIL on 25 January said the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board has given permission to “repeat the full systems test at the first unit.” One needs to repeat a test only if it failed in the first instance. NPCIL’s desire to gloss over its failure and make it seem as if the ‘permission’ is a hard-won victory is understandable. But why is the AERB condescending even after RK Sinha, chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, had said that “there are some system parameters like flow, pressure, temperature that need to be maintained within particular values.” During the first hydro test conducted last December, certain valves did not behave the way the manufacturer claimed they would. These valves were opened, repaired, and some components replaced. The fact that brand new valves malfunctioned raises questions about the quality of equipment supplied. Identification of defective valves at this late pre-commissioning stage suggests that the quality of assurance of individual components was deficient.
In February last year, Russia’s Federal Security Service arrested Sergei Shutov, procurement director of Rosatom subsidiary Zio-Podolsk, on charges of corruption and fraud. Zio-Podolsk is the sole supplier of steam generators and some other key components for Russian nuclear reactors worldwide, including India. Shutov was charged with using cheap Ukranian steel blanks in nuclear reactors. NPCIL should reveal whether the leaky valves were supplied by Zio-Podolsk. A PTI feature issued in July 2011 reveals, quoting DAE sources, that the Koodankulam plant was expected to be commissioned in March 2009, long before protesters held up work on the project for nearly six months, but was delayed because of difficulties experienced in receiving equipment from Russia “in sequential order.” The article says: “The designers discovered that several kilometers of power and control cables in the reactor were missed after the completion of double containment of the reactor.” The problem was rectified after the cables meant for power supply to instrumentation in different buildings were incorporated by breaking open the concrete walls in the containment domes and was sealed again bringing the cables from the switch yard to inside. Breaking open and resealing the containment dome is unprecedented in nuclear power industry.
As the Manmohan Singh government is determined to unleash all kinds of atrocities on peaceful protesters against the shaky Koodankulam plant like filing 325 cases including sedition, waging war on the Indian State and on other serious sections of the Cr PC and IPC with 5,296 named as accused and 221,483 unnamed accused at one police station alone near the plant site, PMANE has taken up the issue with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi who had earlier reached out to the tribal people opposed to Vedanta Resource’s Rs. 4,500-crore bauxite mining project in Orissa’s Niyamgiri Hills. Rahul had then said: “True development takes place by respecting the interests of the poor,” and offered to be their sipahi in Delhi. SP Udayakumar, coordinator of PMANE, in a letter to Rahul, said if the Congress did not respect people’s power, democracy and peaceful struggles, and starts the Koodankulam plant forcibly, it would prompt the voters at least in Tamil Nadu and Kerala to shun the Congress.
Unmindful of the people’s fears about the breaking open and resealing of the dome of the Koodankulam plant, the AERB, DAE and NPCIL remain tight-lipped. Even a small mishap in a nuclear facility will have the potential to destroy millions of people in our densely populated country. In a recent report, the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India has passed strictures on the ‘toothless’ AERB for not even ensuring nuclear and radiation safety in any of the atomic installations in the country. The long-awaited Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill, tabled in the Lok Sabha on 7 September 2011, ostensibly to bring about much needed independence and transparency in administering safety of nuclear operations, remains a non-starter. According to A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of AERB, the Bill fails to serve any of its laudable objectives in its present form.
The Bill seeks to establish a Council of Nuclear Safety to be chaired by the Prime Minister and will have as its members five or more Cabinet ministers, the Cabinet Secretary, chairman of the AEC and experts nominated by the Union government. The CAS will constitute two search committees, one to select the chairperson and the other to select members of the NSRA. The CNS is empowered to create an Appellate Authority to hear any appeals on any order or decision of the NSRA. The same Appellate Authority will also decide on appeals from the government against the NSRA. What the government tries to do under this Bill is to create a high level council under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister to control and curb the freedom of action of the NSRA. Clause 20 of the Bill stipulates the NSRA should function in a manner consistent with the international obligations of India.
If the NSRA were to find the equipment supplied by Russia to the Koodankulam plant substandard and do not conform to safety norms, the regulatory body dare not act for it would be contrary to “India’s international obligations” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has promised unilaterally to his Russian counterpart while on a visit to Moscow in December 2011.
The same clause also says the NSRA “shall not interact with bodies outside India without the prior approval of the government.” The subservient nature of the proposed NSRA has been made abundantly clear in Clause 48(1) which says: “the Central government may, by notification, supersede the regulatory authority for such a period not exceeding six months. Upon notification, the chairperson and members of the NSRA shall vacate their offices as such; … all the powers, functions and duties shall, until the authority is reconstituted, be exercised and discharged by the Central government.” The NSRA can never be independent unless the appointment of its chairperson and selection of members of the regulatory authority as well as suppression of the NSRA are left to Parliament and not to the ruling party of the day. (The Statesman/ANN)
Sam Rajappa is a journalist with over five decades experience in media. He is The Weekend Leader’s Consulting Editor. Sam started his career in journalism in 1960 as a sub-editor with the Free Press Journal in Bombay. In 1962 he joined The Statesman in New Delhi and later moved to Chennai. He was associated with the paper till 2008. In 1980, he took a year’s sabbatical from The Statesman to set up the South Indian network of India Today, and worked as their South India bureau chief based in Bangalore. Again, he took a short break from the paper in 1996 to launch The Andhra Pradesh Times, an English daily published from Hyderabad, as its founder-editor. For about fifteen years, since 1980, Sam was also the BBC’s South India correspondent. He was an adjunct faculty member of the Chennai-based Asian College of Journalism from 2001 to 2007 and later served as Director of The Statesman Print Journalism School, Kolkata.
Currently, in India, the word Coalgate, sounding similar to the name of a popular toothpaste, means the report published on August 17, 2012 by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (C&A G or CAG).
The organisations subject to the audit of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India are:
All the Union and State Government departments and offices including the Indian Railways and Posts and Telecommunications.
About 1,200 public commercial enterprises controlled by the Union and State governments, namely, government companies and corporations.
Around 400 non-commercial autonomous bodies and authorities owned or controlled by the Union or the States.
Over 4,400 authorities and bodies substantially financed from the Union or State revenues.
The auditor general’s report has questioned the government’s procedure of awarding coal mining concessions to private companies without competitive bidding. It states that as on March 11, 2011, there has been a lack of transparency in the allocation of coal blocks to private participants. The report does not charge criminal misconduct by Manmohan Singh’s vulnerable coalition government. However, the report has raised issues concerning the non-transparent procedure of awarding coal blocks by an inter-ministerial committee. The report alleges that this unduly helped private and state power and steel companies leading to an unrealized revenue of Rs 1.85 lakh crore ($37 billion) to the exchequer; even so, industry watchers and the government doubt this figure.
The CAG report has turned into a provender for the opposition lawmakers.
On Monday, August 27, the parliament resembled a noisy theatre. The BJP lawmakers and members of the ruling Congress party engaged in a shouting match. Manmohan Singh appeared in the lower house of parliament. He submitted a comprehensive four-page rebuttal of the main allegations in the auditor’s report. He managed to mumble a few words only as the uproar from the opposition forced him to sit down. They raised slogans such as “Prime minister tender your resignation.”
A few minutes later, Singh tried to deliver the same rebuttal speech in the upper house of parliament. He was silenced once again by similar chanting.
In his written statement, the Prime Minister has denied that his government had done anything wrong. He blamed the opposition parties, who ruled the major coal-rich states, for the delay in introducing competitive bidding for coal-fields. He added that the findings of the state auditor were “clearly disputable.”
In July 2012, ethnic violence in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam erupted between the Bengali-speaking Muslim immigrants and the indigenous Bodos. Nearly 80 people died during last month alone. 400,000 people have been displaced from almost 400 villages, and are sheltered in 270 relief camps.
The Muslim population in the North-East consists of refugees who migrated before the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971 from the erstwhile East Pakistan. Currently, Rohingya Muslims from Bangladesh, are infiltrating into the region. This violent outbreak is due in part to the rising ethnic nationalism (most notably Bodo nationalism) and diaspora politics
On 27 July 2012, Assam’s Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi blamed the national government for its delay in sending the army to riot-hit areas. The following day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the relief camps in Kokrajhar and said the recent violence is a blot on the face of India.
On 11 August 2012, a protest was organised by the Raza Academy against the attacks on Muslims in Assam and in Myanmar was held at Azad Maidan in Mumbai. The protest was attended by two other groups, Sunni Jamaitul Ulma and Jamate Raza-e-Mustafa. It ended in violence, leading to two deaths and 54 injured including 45 policemen. The most disturbing images were those of miscreants demolishing the “Amar Jawan Jyoti” a symbol of Indian Valour.
Now, the people from the North-East living in cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune are on their guard against aftershocks and repercussions. Thousands of people are fleeing the southern city of Bangalore amid rumours. They said that text messages were circulating, which warned of attacks by Muslims in retaliation for communal violence in their home state.
However, leaders from the Bangalore’s Muslim community assured students from the North-East with regard to their personal safety in Bangalore. Because panic-stricken men and women from the North-East continue to get out of Bangalore, leaders of the local Muslim community talked with student representatives and assured them that there would be almost nothing to be worried. Akbar Ali, convener of the Muslim welfare association said those people who seriously feel quite unsafe in their home are welcome to come to the homes of Muslims and to the mosques to take shelter. Ali also told the students that there was no need to worry. “We will protect you, but please do not leave the city. It is your city as much as ours,” reassured Ali.
Hundreds of students and workers from Assam thronged Bangalore’s main railway station on Thursday to try to board trains leaving the city, while officials tried to assure them of their safety.
The Central government and the Karnataka State government say emphatically that there is no need for the people from the North-East living in Bangalore to return to their homes as there is no imminent threat to them in the City.
The police are monitoring social-networking sites to find those creating this panic. Though the level of panic has come down as compared to Wednesday, people continue to leave the city. People from the North-East say that as per the messages or rumours being circulated, the attacks could come after the 20th of this month; hence, they did not want to be here at that time. However, the Bangalore police say that no incidents have been reported on any attack on citizens from the North-East in the city. Their message says, “Do not panic or heed to rumours. In case you need help, please call the control room.”
The state administration, on the other hand, is doing all it can to assure the panic-stricken people that they were safe within the city. Law Minister, Suresh Kumar, when contacted informed that he met with most of the people at the railway station and assured them of their safety. Most of the people want to go home to their parents as there have been incidents that prompted them to leave the city.The latest developments:
The Ministry of Home Affairs has ordered monitoring of social networking and online community websites to identify those who are misreporting facts and throe spreading rumours through email messages to trigger communal violence.
Acknowledging that rumours and threatening text messages are fuelling tension, the Prime Minister said, “We must work together to ensure that all people from other states do not feel threatened by rumour-mongering and SMSes. We have to maintain peace at any cost.” He also urged all political parties to “work together to give a feeling of confidence” to all people affected in the recent violence in Assam.
In Bangalore, for the second night in a row, two special trains departed for Guwahati, in addition to the regular train that runs every evening. Officials say the rush is partly because of the long weekend. But some students from states like Assam and Manipur say their parents are worried about their safety and want them back at home.
Bangalore Police Commissioner Jyothiprakash Mirji visited the railway station to reiterate, “No incidents have been reported of attack on North-Eastern citizens in Bangalore. Do not panic or pay heed to rumour.”
Student representatives of Bangalore’s north-eastern community met on Thursday morning with Muslim leaders who have said they will continue to disseminate messages of peace. “Those feeling unsafe may take shelter in our homes and mosques. But please do not leave the city. It is yours as much as it is mine,” said Akbar Ali, Convenor, Bangalore’s Muslim Welfare Association.
Jagadish Shettar, who heads the BJP government in Karnataka, met students from the North-East on Thursday and said, “We are all with you…there is nothing to worry (about).” He also reassured them that nobody has been attacked in the state as a result of the ethnic violence in Assam. A helpline has been set up for the north-eastern community in the city.
Indians from the North-East, living in cities like Bangalore, should stay where they are, said Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Thursday afternoon. He phoned the Chief Minister of Karnataka on Wednesday and asked that his administration ensure the safety of students and young professionals in Bangalore.
After reports of new ethnic violence in Assam, the Army will be deployed in the state to help maintain law and order; the state government has formally sought its assistance today. Nine columns of the Army (about 600 personnel) will be stationed in Nalbari, an important town in Lower Assam which has been hit by ethnic violence.
A car was set ablaze on Wednesday night in Baksa, which is in lower Assam, and was one of the districts affected in the recent clashes between Bodo tribal and Bengali-speaking Muslims. Angry locals, in response, torched a bus and a bridge on Thursday morning. Nearly 80 people have died in the last month in the ethnic clashes. Till recently, four lakh people were packed into relief camps.
In New Delhi, senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said, “Panic due to rumours in Karnataka is a very serious issue. The Karnataka government will do everything to protect the people from the North-East. It is a case of concerted effort to create a divide among people.” She also urged the governments of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra to build confidence among people from the North-East who study or work in cities like Hyderabad and Pune.
On July 19, 2012 Captain Lakshmi Sehgal suffered a heart attack at her residence in Civil Lines area, Kanpur. The 97-year-old, who as a young woman fought allied forces during World War II, breathed her last in a private hospital at 11:20 a.m. on July 23, 2012 due to her advanced age and multi-organ failure.
Communist Party of India (M), which she had joined in 1971, described her as an “inspiring and courageous freedom fighter, a dedicated and compassionate doctor in the service of the poor, (and) a fighter for women’s rights…”
Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condoled the death of Sehgal, saying that the nation has lost an icon of selfless service.
Who is this Captain Lakshmi? What is so special about her?
A doctor by profession, as a young woman she fought allied forces during World War II leading the women’s wing of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose‘s Indian National Army. An activist.
She was born as Lakshmi Swaminathan on October 24, 1914 in Madras, Madras Presidency, British India, to S. Swaminathan, a lawyer who practiced criminal law at Madras High Court and A.V. Ammukutty, better known as Ammu Swaminathan, a social worker and independence activist from the prominent Vadakkath family of Anakkara in Palghat, Kerala who later became a member of independent India’s Constituent Assembly.
Lakshmi observed how the fight for political freedom was fought along the struggle for social reform in the South. Her mother, a Madras socialite became an ardent Congress supporter. One day she walked into Lakshmi’s room, took away all the child’s pretty dresses to burn in a bonfire of foreign goods. Lakshmi also saw campaigns for political independence waged together with struggles for temple entry for Dalits and against child marriage and dowry.
Even as a child, Lakshmi had a rebellious temperament. One day at her grandmother’s house in Kerala, she walked up to a young tribal girl, held her hand and invited her to play with her. Though her conservative grandmother was extremely angry with her, Lakshmi faced it bravely. It was her first rebellion against the humiliating institution of caste.
After high school in Madras, Lakshmi obtained her MBBS degree from the Madras Medical College in 1938. A year later, she received her diploma in gynaecology and obstetrics. She worked as a doctor in the Government Kasturba Gandhi Hospital at Triplicane Chennai.
Two years later at the age of 26 she left for Singapore after the failure of her marriage with pilot P.K.N. Rao.
Fall of Singapore
In 1942, Britain and its allies had imposed a trade embargo on Japan in response to its continued campaigns in China. Seeking alternate sources of necessary materials for its Pacific War against the Allies, Japan invaded Malaya. Singapore was the major British military base in Southeast Asia and nicknamed the “Gibraltar of the East”. The Japanese saw Singapore as a port which could be used as a launch pad against other Allied interests in the area.
The Empire of Japan invaded the Allied stronghold of Singapore on February 9, 1942. The fighting lasted a week. In just seven days, Singapore, the “Impregnable Fortress”, fell to the Japanese that resulted in the largest surrender of British-led military personnel in history. About 80,000 British, Indian and Australian troops became prisoners of war, joining 50,000 taken by the Japanese in their Malayan Campaign.
Indian National Army
Lakshmi attended the wounded prisoners of war, many of whom interested in forming an Indian liberation army and young Lakshmi got drawn to the freedom struggle to liberate India from the British rule.
At this time in Singapore, there were many nationalist Indians like N. Raghavan, K. P. Kesava Menon, S. C. Guha, and others, who formed a Council of Action. The aim of their Indian National Army (INA) or Azad Hind Fauj was to liberate India from the British occupation with the help of the Japanese. Initially composed of Indian prisoners of war captured by Japan in the Malayan campaign and at Singapore, it later drew volunteers from Indian expatriate population in Malaya and Burma. However the INA received no firm commitments or approval from the occupying Japanese forces about their participation in the war. At this juncture the arrival of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose in Singapore on July 2, 1943 ended this moratorium.
In the next few days, at all his public meetings, “Netaji” spoke of his determination to raise a women’s regiment which would “fight for Indian Independence and make it complete”. Lakshmi met Netaji in Singapore and had a five-hour interview that resulted in a mandate to set up a women’s regiment, “the Rani of Jhansi regiment. ” There was a huge response from young women to join this all-women brigade and Dr. Lakshmi Swaminathan became Captain Lakshmi, a name and identity that stayed with her for life.
In December 1944, the march to Burma began. In March 1945, just before the entry of their armies into Imphal, the INA leadership took the decision to retreat. In May 1945, the British army arrested Lakshmi. She remained under house arrest in the jungles of Burma until March 1946. She arrived in India amidst the popular hatred of colonial rule, intensified by the INA trials in Delhi.
Captain Lakshmi Sehgal
In March 1947, Captain Lakshmi married Col. Prem Kumar Sehgal, a leading figure of the INA. The couple moved from Lahore to Kanpur, where she plunged into her medical practice, working among the flood of refugees who had come from the newly formed Pakistan. She earned the trust and gratitude of both Hindus and Muslims. Even at the age of 92, she saw her patients every morning.
Bangladesh Liberation War
The Bangladesh Liberation War started on March 26, 1971 between the State of Pakistan and East Pakistan. India intervened on December 3, 1971. Armed conflict ended on December 16, 1971 resulted in the secession of East Pakistan, which became the independent nation of Bangladesh. Refugee camps were set up in the border areas in West Bengal.
Lakshmi’s daughter Subhashini had joined the CPI(M) in early 1970s brought to her mother’s attention an appeal from Jyoti Basu for doctors and medical supplies for Bangladeshi refugee camps. Captain Lakshmi left for Calcutta, carrying clothes and medicines, to work for the next five weeks in the border areas.
After her return Lakshmi applied for membership in the CPI(M). For the 57-year old doctor, joining the Communist Party was “like coming home.” “My way of thinking was already communist, and I never wanted to earn a lot of money, or acquire a lot of property or wealth,” she had said.
Captain Lakshmi was one of the founding members of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) formed in 1981. She later led many of its activities and campaigns.
After the Bhopal gas tragedy in December 1984, she led a medical team to the city; years later she wrote a report on the long-term effects of the gas on pregnant women.
She was out on the streets in Kanpur, during the anti-Sikh riots that followed Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, confronting anti-Sikh mobs and ensuring the safety of Sikh or Sikh establishments in the crowded area near her clinic.
In 1996, she got arrested for her participation in a campaign by AIDWA against the Miss World competition held in Bangalore.
In 2002, the Left fielded Captain Lakshmi as their presidential candidate against Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. During her whirlwind campaign across the country, she addressed huge crowds at public meetings. She frankly admitted that she did not stand a chance of winning and she used her platform to publicly condemn a political system that allowed the growth of poverty and injustice.
The unpredictable financial implications of constructing, running, decommissioning plants and handling risks are causing a global rethink on nuclear energy
For a professed proponent of liberalisation and free trade, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s penchant for a technology that cannot float without subsidies is telling. Nuclear power’s unfavourable economics are not lost on Dr. Singh.
Recently, Westinghouse Electric and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to negotiate the setting up of AP1000 reactors in Gujarat, ending a slump in interest from the Toshiba subsidiary in India’s nuclear market. For Toshiba’s Westinghouse and other nuclear equipment suppliers, the Civil Nuclear Liability Act’s clause on supplier liability was the key hurdle to investing in India. The companies wanted the Indian government to insulate them from the financial fallouts of any potential disaster caused by their technology by spreading that liability among taxpayers. The recent MoU suggests some progress in moving towards this goal.
More obstacles remain, though. Nuclear projects are un-bankable. The government may deploy mental health specialists to deal with the fears of Kudankulam protestors. But those shrinks are unlikely to be able to allay the fears of financiers or nuclear equipment suppliers.
According to nuclear energy expert Peter Bradford, “The most implacable enemy of nuclear power in the past 30 years has been the risk not to public health but to investors’ wallets. No nuclear power project has ever bid successfully in a competitive energy market anywhere in the world.” Mr. Bradford was member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and chair of the New York and Maine electricity regulatory commissions. He teaches a course on nuclear power at the Vermont Law School.
Unpredictable financial implications associated with constructing, running, decommissioning plants and handling nuclear risks are causing a rethink on nuclear energy worldwide. But these developments seem to slip by India without so much as causing a ripple.
Germany and Switzerland have decided to phase out nuclear power, despite their substantial dependence on it. Israel abandoned its year-old civilian nuclear programme after Fukushima. Belgium revived a pre-Fukushima decision to phase out nuclear power, using the Japanese disaster as a reminder. Italy and Kuwait gave up their nuclear debut by abandoning plans for 10 and four plants respectively. Mexico dropped plans for constructing 10 plants. All of Japan’s 54 reactors are now closed, and plans for 14 new reactors killed.
The story of nuclear energy’s unviability is told not just by the actions of naysayers, but also by the experiences of those — like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, Turkey, Vietnam and South Africa — pursuing nuclear programmes. All of them want the nuclear option, but have no idea how they will finance it.
If the U.S. is Dr. Singh’s inspiration, then the so-called nuclear renaissance’s trajectory in that country gives even more cause for despair. In 2009, the U.S. declared a nuclear revival with promises of more than 30 new reactors. Today, most of these projects are doomed. Even candidates for federal loan guarantees such as the South Texas project, and the Calvert Cliffs-3 project in Maryland, have been mothballed.
State governments in the U.S. do not seem to share the Federal Government‘s enthusiasm for nukes. Bills to reverse moratoria on nuclear plants in Minnesota, Kentucky and Wisconsin failed last year. In Missouri, North Carolina and Iowa, legislators defeated bills to charge electricity consumers in advance to finance reactors.
“At the time of Fukushima, only four countries — China, Russia, India and South Korea — were building more than two reactors. In these four nations, citizens pay for the new reactors the government chooses to build through direct subsidies or energy price hikes,” Bradford notes.
Finland was among the few that reiterated its commitment to nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster. The 1,600 MW Olkiluoto nuclear plant uses French company Areva‘s technology. Areva’s modular design was expected to make it faster and cheaper to build. But 11 years later, the project is behind schedule and its $4.2 billion budget is up now by 50 per cent. After Fukushima, Areva admits that the same plant would cost $8 billion. Even Areva’s home project, in Flamanville, France, has suffered a $4 billion cost overrun and a four year delay. Indeed, 31 out of 45 reactors that were being constructed globally around 2009 were either delayed or did not have official dates for commissioning, says a report for the German Government by consultant Mycle Schneider.
In Kalpakkam, meanwhile, the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor was slotted to contribute to the grid in March 2012. In 2005, Baldev Raj, Director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam, boasted that the 500 MW unit will be completed in 2010, 18 months before schedule. Till date, there is no sign of this happening. The Kudankulam plant, which is now 23 years old since conception, lost only eight months due to protestors.
In Jaitapur too, the government has more to worry about than local protestors. Areva, the technology supplier, is in trouble. Last year, it announced losses of €1.6 billion, and the sacking of 1,200 workers in Germany. Last June, it decided to suspend production at a Virginia reactor component plant due to declining market prospects. Its expansion plans in France, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. may never materialise. Areva expected to sell 50 nuclear reactors this decade. It has not received a single order since 2007.
Now, with a socialist president at the helm in France, Areva’s future looks even more uncertain. French President François Hollande had promised voters a reduction in nuclear dependence from 75 to 50 per cent, and shutdown of an aging reactor in Fessenheim. Whether or not he carries through with these promises, it appears certain that no new plants will be built or planned during his term. Both conservative-led Germany and socialist France will make up the shortfall from the nuclear phase-out, by investing in renewables for electricity and new jobs. In replacing nuclear with renewables, these nations are declaring that despite its carbon dividend, nuclear is too risky — financially, politically and environmentally — to pursue.
(Nityanand Jayaraman is an independent writer and volunteer with the Chennai Solidarity Group for Kudankulam Struggle.)
As per some press reports (The Hindu May 16, 2012) you told the Parliament on Wednesday 16/05 that,
“Germany, which had announced that it would close down all its all nuclear plants by 2022, bought electricity from France, a country that relied heavily on atomic energy.”
But this is just the opposite of the truth!
Since 2004, France has always been a net importer of electricity from Germany. The quantity of electricity purchased by France from Germany every year has been between the equivalent production of one or two nuclear reactors.
2004 : 8,7 TWh
2005 : 9,6 TWh
2006 : 5,6 TWh
2007 : 8,2 TWh
2008 : 12,6 TWh
2009 : 11,9 TWh
2010 : 6,7 Twh
You can find this information here (and use internet translation from French to English if required):
And you can further verify the information from the original source (RTE, the French government-owned power distribution company) in the links quoted in the article.
Please note that, although some sources in the previous French government had predicted that Germany would start becoming a net importer of electricity from France after they decided in 2011 to shut down in a planned manner their oldest nuclear plants, this prediction did not happen, and during the last winter, Germany was not only self-sufficient after closing 8 nuclear reactors, but was even capable to help “Atomic France”.
The information is in the same website as above, and the original data can be also verified.
Dear Prime Minister, I don’t know from where you get information on nuclear energy, but from now on, please connect yourself to the internet and personally check the facts about nuclear energy. You may object that as Prime Minister you are too busy to get educated on nuclear energy. But in the present situation, it is possible that there may be no other way for taking wise decisions on this issue which is so crucial, not only for the economy but for the future of us all on this earth.
It took me 10 minutes of internet search to find the details above!
There are plenty of serious websites, in all languages, from where the information can be cross-checked and verified.
This is a photo copy of the letter sent by Amnesty International to Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India:
Prime Minister of India
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
South Block, Raisina Hill
New Delhi 110 000
Dear Prime Minister,
As members of Amnesty International Geneva,Switzerland, we are dismayed by the detainment of the Tamil Naduu nuclear plant protesters, the charges of sedition, conspiracy and rioting lodged against many of them, and by the prospect that some of these protesters continue to remain in jail.
The protests, which were massive, were organized because local people feel the project to build a nuclear power plant next to the coastal village of Kudankulam poses a danger to the health of local communities. The charges against the protesters constitute a deliberate attempt by the authorities to silence them, despite the fact that the protests have been peaceful.
Dr S P Udayakumar, a teacher living in nearby Nagercoil town and leader of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), has said the Indian authorities have failed to respond satisfactorily to several site and safety concerns raised by an independent group of experts. We are dismayed that officials belonging to the Ministry of Home Affairs searched Dr Udayakumar’s home and that police harassed shopkeepers who were in solidarity with the protesters.
We call on your government and the relevant authorities to comply with international law by respecting the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly of the peaceful protesters. We call on you to:
release all remaining peaceful protestors immediately and drop the false charges against them; and
put an immediate end to the harassment of those resorting to peaceful protests, and respect the protestors’ rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in accordance with international law.
Thanking you for taking action in this matter.
Yours very sincerely,
Peter Cattan, route de Malagnou 54 A
1208 Geneva, Switzerland
cc: Ambassade de la Republique de l’Inde, Kirchenfeldstrasse 28, Caes postale 406, 3000 Berne 6
The song “Why this kolaverikolaverikolaveridi?” was featured in the Tamil film titled “3″ (Tamil: “moonu“), that was released on March 30, 2012. Young music director Anirudh Ravichander composed the music in just 10 minutes and young actor Dhanush who sang this song wrote the lyrics, in about 20 minutes by fiddling and twiddling with Tanglish words.
This song with Tanglish lyrics became an internet phenomenon. Within a week after the official release of the video, it had more than 3.5 million views on YouTube, and more than 1 million shares on Facebook. Up to November 30, 2011 it had more than 10.5 million views on YouTube. By the end of 2011, the number of YouTube views crossed 30 million.
The song with unique yet nonsensical lyrics and captivating music has spawned hundreds of imitations and political parodies in India.
Here is the original video uploaded by sonymusicindiaSME on November 16, 2011 – an exclusive video shot during the recording of the song with the music composer Anirudh Ravichander, actors Dhanush, Shruti Hassan, director of the movie Aishwarya and sound engineer Sivakumar.
Here, I have embedded two videos that impressed me. They are humorous political parodies of current political situation in India.
Why this Kolaveri Di (Malayalam Political Version) – Why this Kodiyeri Di
This song ‘Why This Kodiyeri Kodiyeri Di.’ is a political version sung in Malayalam created by a team called Nadakame Ulakam.
The lyrics for this political parody was written by uploader TheHariharaniyer on Dec 14, 2011 and has 458,307 YouTube views to date.